One of our family holiday traditions is to travel great distances in short periods of time to visit family who rudely did not follow us as we moved from Georgia to Kansas to Texas.

This year we logged in just a bit more than 2,000 miles at Thanksgiving on a Dallas-to-Pelzer, S.C., trek. For Christmas we put some 1,500 miles on our vehicle and tired behinds in a Dallas-to-Pensacola, Fla., trip.

My wife, Pat, and I generally share the driving duties, swapping off about every four hours or so, and while I drive, she sleeps, which is sometimes unfortunate because her sense of direction is a bit more finely-honed than mine. She makes a good navigator and reminds me of detours we decide on in advance to avoid traffic.

For instance, we always follow Highway 12 out of Baton Rouge to avoid New Orleans on our way to Pensacola. That was our plan again this year, but as I drove through Baton Rouge on I-10, I noticed a detour heading north, away from the traffic bottleneck that was building on the interstate near downtown Baton Rouge.

Pat was asleep. A good place to detour, I thought, assuming that the three-digit highway designation, 110, indicated a perimeter road and that I would soon be back on I-10, having avoided snarly traffic and stops and starts, which would have disturbed Pat's nap.

Several miles later I noticed that 110 kept heading north, not where I wanted to go. Pat was still asleep, and, not wanting to awaken her, I decided to take the first southward highway I could find, hook back up with I-10 and be on my way. With any luck at all, I could accomplish the detour without waking her and she would be none the wiser. (She sometimes mentions my proclivity to get lost, as she had the day before, when we were trying to avoid construction traffic on I-20 by sticking to highway 80 from Dallas to past Tyler. Somehow, I slipped onto 20 a few exits too soon and we found ourselves creeping along at a brisk 5 miles per hour. All this occurred, naturally, while Pat slept.)

That's why I didn't wake her up. I took highway 69 south off 110 and encountered about 200 stoplights, all red. With each stop, I braked as gently as possible, turned the radio as low as I could and prayed that the frequent disruptions would not be enough to rouse her.

I almost made it. A few miles to go until I-10 and I hear: “Where are we?”

Busted!

I have two basic options. Tell the truth and subject myself to being reminded, again, of my penchant for veering off course, occasionally. Or lie through my teeth and come up with something believable, although she always sees through my subterfuges. High road or low road? Tough choice. I chose the high road.

“I saw this sign back there about a historical place and I thought since you were asleep anyway, I'd just drive past and see what it was all about.”

“You took a wrong turn, didn't you?” She is so astute.

“No, really, the sign mentioned a Civil War relic.'

“The only relic around here is the absent-minded one driving this car.”

“But, ….”

“Shut up.”

I did. There is simply no reasoning with her when she's in one of these states.

She picked up the atlas, found Highway 69 and discovered that it bisected Highway 12 a few stoplights from where we were.

“I knew that!”

“Of course you did. Now, since your little detour has cost us about 30 minutes, we'll have to go to a McDonald's drive-through and get lunch.”

That was punishment. I hate drive-through dining, especially at the clown burger.

Had that been the only penance I had to do, however, I would have considered myself lucky. For the rest of the trip I was reminded, at every crossroads, at every highway junction at every hog path, that I should stay on I-10 until I got to Pensacola.

If my navigator had simply stayed awake… No, I didn't believe I wanted to go there.

rsmith@primediabusiness.com